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NEWS | Sept. 4, 2013

Fort Eustis Honor Guard: Pride in precision

By Staff Sgt. Wesley Farnsworth 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As members of the Fort Eustis Honor Guard, Soldiers from the 7th Sustainment Brigade work countless hours practicing and perfecting their movements in preparation for the call that a Service member, past or present, has passed away.

Being the last face a family member may see in an official capacity from the Army after their loved one's passing is among the Fort Eustis Honor Guard's greatest responsibilities. They perform flawless military honors for anyone who has ever served in the Army and separated honorably.

U.S. Army Sgt. Andre Jones, Fort Eustis Honor Guard pall bearer team noncommissioned officer in charge, is among the Soldiers currently assigned to the honor guard team.

"It gives me a great sense of pride to render honors to a fallen comrade," said Jones.

Spc. Latisha Pitts, a member of the Fort Eustis Honor Guard Rifle Team, echoed Jones thoughts.

"It's an honor to remember those who have fallen by performing for their families," Pitts said. "It's a way for us to show the family we care for them."

When they are not on a detail, the Honor Guard spends every moment practicing their precise movements.

"We rehearse every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as long as we are not out on a detail," Jones said. "I practice because I want that family to remember our performance and our professionalism."

Pitts agreed that their daily practice is important so the team's volleys and movements are perfect, ensuring they look as sharp as possible and in sync.

Every service the Fort Eustis Honor Guard provides involves rigorous planning and practice, said Jones.

"We arrive two hours ahead of every detail's scheduled start time so we can perform final rehearsals and prepare ourselves for any situation," Jones said. "It allows us to ensure our uniforms look as sharp as possible."

The coveted Fort Eustis Honor Guard team positions are awarded only after intense scrutiny. Each member of the Fort Eustis Honor Guard is handpicked by their platoon sergeant, along with direction from the unit commander and first sergeant.

"We always select Soldiers who demonstrate outstanding military bearing," Jones said.

Jones offered advice to Soldiers interested in joining the team.

"Be in the right place at the right time, maintain your integrity and, most importantly, take pride in everything you do," he said.

After being selected for the Fort Eustis Honor Guard team, Soldiers perform a three-month rotation in which they are detached from their normal unit.

"The rotations allow us to focus strictly on our honor guard mission," Jones said. "They allow us to react and respond at any time when a call comes in."

Jones said the honor guard lifestyle can be very busy, as they are responsible for services on the peninsula from Hampton to Matthews County.

Despite the hectic work schedule, Pitts said it is "a great experience," one every Soldier should have.

"I've never done anything like this before," Pitts said. "I would love to do this again if I was chosen."

Not surprisingly, performing military honors can lead to mixed emotions for those serving on the team.

"It makes me feel good to know I may be the last person that family member may see in any official capacity," Jones said. "It gets tough at times, because when I present the American flag to the family member, I do it from my heart, because their loved ones paved the way for us."

Pitts said she has had family members approach her after the ceremony to thank her for being there.

"A lot of family members come up to you afterward to thank you and tell you did a good job," Pitts said. "That makes me feel really good, and makes all the practice worth it."

Jones said the team's commitment to precision is indicative of who the Fort Eustis Honor Guard represents, and more importantly, who they honor.

"The Soldiers who serve on the [Fort Eustis] Honor Guard represent their leadership and the Army," Jones said. "Everyone does an outstanding job, and if you ever have a chance to see them perform, you should. It's absolutely breathtaking."